Strauss adopts tunnel vision
Andrew Strauss is already plotting a surge up the Test rankings after England’s series draw in South Africa, even though he has been confirmed as an absentee from the next tour - to Bangladesh.
Alastair Cook will lead the Test and one-day teams in Strauss’ place, while James Anderson is afforded time to rest his knee injury.
England will spend a week in the United Arab Emirates next month before heading on to Bangladesh for three ODIs and two Tests.
A Test whitewash in favour of the tourists will close the gap on Sri Lanka in fourth place in the International Cricket Council’s Test table, ahead of a busy summer against Bangladesh, again, and Pakistan.
Already looming large on the horizon is next winter’s Ashes defence, when England will have the best opportunity to rise up the Test rankings.
However, Strauss acknowledges that for this to happen, his side have many areas of improvement following their innings-and-174-run defeat yesterday at the Wanderers.
“We’re not good enough at this stage,” he said. “We’ve shown resilience and that we can be a hard side to beat - which is an important attribute to have.
“But we’re not clinical or consistent enough, and that’s been a trait that’s been there for some time. We need to look at the reasons why. Are we reacting to match conditions well enough? Are our gameplans right? We need to keep improving, we all know that.”
England showed great determination to twice hang on with nine wickets down, thanks largely to number 11 Graham Onions, and in between score a landslide victory in the second Test at Kingsmead.
But Johannesburg was a step too far, and - Paul Collingwood’s 71 apart - they folded tamely yesterday to 169 all out, as fast bowlers Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn did the damage.
Strauss, nonetheless, insists England have the potential to go much higher than the fifth place they currently occupy in the Test rankings.
“There is a lot to be excited about for the future - guys coming in and improving, someone like Ian Bell coming back into the side and playing well. That is a big bonus,” he said.
“On this tour, only three of our batsmen had decent series. The other four didn’t - and you’re not going to win many series if that’s the case.
“I don’t doubt the quality in our batting line-up - everyone has proved they’re good players - but not enough of us were able to do it often enough on this tour.”
One man who fell into that category was Kevin Pietersen, on his return to his native country and after four months out injured, but Strauss is keeping faith in a mercurial talent.
“There are always high expectations when he plays,” he said of Pietersen.
“He hasn’t had his most productive of series but it is hard to come in after a long lay-off and play a side with quality bowling like South Africa on wickets that help them a bit.
“I’m sure he’ll be desperate to prove his class once again and there’s no doubt about it that he’ll come back.”
Meanwhile, Strauss and his team have been fined for a slow over-rate during the fourth Test.
Match referee Roshan Mahanama ruled the tourists were an over short of their target at the end of the match, once time allowances had been taken into consideration.
Strauss has been fined 20% of his match fee and the remaining 10 England players received fines of 10%.
An ICC statement read: “If Strauss is found guilty of two further minor over-rate offences in Tests over the next 12 months, he will receive a one-match suspension as per the provisions of the new, enhanced ICC code of conduct.
“The penalty was accepted by Strauss without contest so there was no need for a hearing.”